Community-Led Planning to Reduce Shoreline Flooding in the South Shore Neighborhood of Chicago

Delta Institute is working with local groups and public agencies to complete a community-led resiliency plan backed by science and centered on shoreline infrastructure implementation for the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. For years this community has been impacted by extreme weather and Lake Michigan events, and a comprehensive community planning process is essential to ensuring a resilient and healthy future for South Shore. 


Why Our Work is Needed

In Chicago, and South Shore specifically, climate change is resulting in more intense rain events and dramatic fluctuations in Lake Michigan water levels that damage infrastructure and accelerate erosion. Disproportionate consequences in South Shore are partially due to historical efforts limiting community resources and influence to change environmental and economic challenges. Additionally, the Lake Michigan shoreline is interrupted at multiple points in South Shore, impacting important continuity for natural habitats, parkland, and bike/ped pathways.  

Efforts to address the South Shore neighborhood’s shoreline problems date back to the 1970s. These efforts, however, have lacked a unified, collaborative, and inclusive planning process, resulting in plans that do not account for community priorities and needs. Despite City, State and Federal planning efforts, a unifying community-led resiliency plan does not exist.  

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and City of Chicago are currently beginning evaluation of lakefront infrastructure and resiliency within the City – as well as other Lake Michigan communities. These processes will investigate coastal storm risk and potentially recommend projects for implementation. These efforts will need to be heavily informed by community priorities and needs, making an in-depth community engagement and planning process to identify preferred strategies and infrastructure in South Shore more important now than ever. 


Brief Overview of What We’re Doing

With support from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Delta Institute is partnering with local groups and relevant public agencies to complete a community-led resiliency plan for South Shore. Delta is convening community members and technical experts to guide the planning process and provide input on strategies and infrastructure that should be implemented to help mitigate coastal erosion and flooding impacts. Delta will obtain this input via a Community Advisory Council (CAC), public surveys and workshops, face-to-face discussions with community members at local events, and data-sharing and analysis with relevant agencies. 

The overall objectives of this project are to create an outreach, education, and engagement process with community stakeholders responsible for and/or impacted by Lake Michigan coastal erosion and flooding that identifies a clear path forward to a more resilient future and includes nature-based and hybrid infrastructure that provides multiple environmental, social and economic benefits. The plan will review past and present plans, summarize community priorities, identify actionable strategies and projects, provide conceptual designs, and detail opportunities for funding and investment that will help move strategies and projects forward. 

Our priority is to create an actionable strategy and to align with the many planning and engagement processes without being redundant or duplicative. Efforts will include and dovetail with the City of Chicago’s South Shore Corridor study, the South Shore Quality of Life Plan, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ General Reevaluation Report and Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study. 

We want to hear from South Shore residents!

If you are interested in joining the Community Advisory Council, which meets monthly on Wednesday evenings, please email Lucas Chamberlain at or Malcolm Mossman at 

Please complete our survey! We are seeking information from community members on priorities, coastal erosion and flooding impacts and locations, and infrastructure needs. Click here to complete the survey. Participants can be entered into a raffle to win a $100 gift card. The survey will close at the end of September. 

Shoreline view on E. 73rd St, South Shore
Infrastructure needs on E. 73rd St. at the shoreline
Private Residences at Arthur Ashe Beach Park
Breakwater at Arthur Ashe Beach Park, 2701 E. 74th St.

Frequently Asked Questions

Lake levels have receded since the major storm events in winter 2019/2020. Why do we need a coastal resiliency plan now? 

Although Lake Michigan levels are currently lower than they were a few years ago, research suggests that climate change will result in major impacts to water levels in the future. A study from Michigan Technological University projects levels on the Michigan-Huron system to increase 17 inches by 2050. Researchers from University of Michigan also project more frequent and intense variations in monthly and seasonal lake levels. Although average lake levels are not expected to increase significantly, the difference between lake level highs and lows will widen. This, combined with more severe storm events, will likely result in more coastal erosion and flooding issues for the South Shore neighborhood. 

What is the study area for this plan? 

The plan is focused on developing strategies and projects to mitigate coastal erosion and flooding impacts within a portion of South Shore that has historically been most impacted. This area stretches from 67th St to the North, 79th St to the South, Exchange Ave and Oglesby Ave to the West and Lake Michigan to the east. Delta, however, recognizes that this area is visited by residents who live throughout South Shore and beyond; their input will be gathered and considered, with less emphasis as those who live and work within the study area. 

Is this related to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers General Reevaluation Report (GRR) currently underway? 

This planning process is not a part of the GRR process currently underway but Delta is coordinating directly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and City of Chicago to ensure that community-identified strategies and projects are technically feasible and are considered as part of their separate analyses. 

Is this expected to replace the South Shore Quality of Life Plan? 

The South Shore Resiliency Plan will align with and expand on specific findings within the South Shore Quality of Life Plan. The Quality of Life Plan highlights community stewardship and beautification as a major issue area and recommends efforts be taken to restore and preserve South Shore’s lakefront to reduce coastal erosion and flooding. The resiliency plan will build on this recommendation by identifying projects and funding opportunities to accomplish this goal. 

Is this plan only concerned with private property impacts from coastal erosion and flooding? 

Although private property impacts have been severe and adversely affect many residents within the South Shore neighborhood, this is not the sole focus of the South Shore Resiliency Plan. The plan will consider impacts to public property and rights-of-way, like parkland and streets, that may need to be mitigated to improve the quality of life for all South Shore stakeholders.  

 What kind of infrastructure will this plan evaluate and recommend? 

In accordance with emerging research in the planning and engineering field, Delta advocates that nature-based solutions – such as rain gardens, coastal wetlands and native prairies –  be included as part of an integrated infrastructure network. Aging traditional “gray” infrastructure is becoming more frequently overwhelmed by severe weather events and is expensive to maintain and expand. Nature-based solutions help slow and divert stormwater flow and buffer against storm surges. If built in combination with traditional “gray” infrastructure, nature-based solutions have shown to effectively mitigate these impacts. Delta will follow the community’s lead on the scale and location of infrastructure desired for the South Shore neighborhood. 

Including the community is important, but so is making decisions based on science and engineering assessments. How will the process incorporate these factors into the final plan? 

Delta will be conducting in-depth analysis of the expected impacts for a variety of infrastructure scenarios. Additionally, Delta is coordinating directly with engineers, researchers, and City of Chicago officials to ensure recommendations are feasible and impactful. 



We at Delta Institute thank those at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for selecting us to manage this important project. We would also like to thank our many project partners, including Sierra Club – Illinois Chapter, local stakeholder groups, state agency representatives, aldermanic representatives, along with many community organizations for contributing their thoughts and acumen. 

Support Us

Create a thriving Midwest for tomorrow by supporting Delta today.